dark comedy, drama, movie, movie review

March 4th, 2018 Movie – Trainspotting


When it comes to movies and books that center around drugs, they tend to be very realistic in their portrayals. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it; as some people will say that such media tends to glorify drug use. Now I am honestly indifferent on the drug use in the books or movies, as I focus more on the story itself and know that drug use can make the story more poignant. When it comes to today’s movie, none of those factors came into play. I was interested in seeing it simply because of the monologue tagline that Ewan McGregor’s character said during the trailer and the use of Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life”. Not the best reasons I know but I was still a teenager when this came out and shallowness is the hallmark of that age. Now let’s see how this movie stands up as I watch today’s movie, Trainspotting.

The plot: Mark “Rent Boy” Renton and his friend Daniel “Spud” Murphy are running from two men and as a car pulls out in front of them, Renton rolls over the hood while Spud keeps running, with one of the men still chasing him, while Renton stops and laughs at the driver of the car. Some time earlier, Renton and Spud are getting high on heroin with their friends Sick Boy, Allison (who brought her infant daughter Dawn with her) and their dealer “Mother Superior”. Renton decides to go clean and gets all the supplies that he thinks he will need while going through withdrawl, then calls a friend to get one last hit but the man gives him some methadone suppositories, saying they will be perfect for him as they will provide a more gradual release to help him get clean. As he is heading back to his flat, Renton gets a case of diarrhea and stops at a pub, which has the worst toilet in Scotland. Braving the filth encrusted stall, Renton goes to use the toilet but as he finishes, he accidentally drops the suppositories into the bowl and has to crawl into it to fish them out, then heads back home to start getting clean. Sick Boy decides to go clean at the same time, mostly just to annoy Renton by showing how easy it is for him to do so as the two hang out at a park shooting people with an air rifle. Renton also tries to help out Spud in getting a job but Spud completely blows the interview. Later, Renton, Spud, and Sick Boy go out drinking with their friends Begbie, a violent, psychotic friend man who loved to start fights, Tommy, the only drug free friend in the group, as well as Lizzy (Tommy’s girlfriend) and Gail (a girl Spud is dating). After Begbie causes a fight at the pub, the group head out to the Volcano Nightclub and Renton, who has been feeling horny from his withdrawal, sees a young woman named Diane and approaches her after she leaves. After talking for a few minutes, Diane invites Renton back to her flat and the two have sex but afterwards, she kicks him out, saying he can’t sleep there, so he ends up falling asleep on the couch in the hall. Meanwhile, Tommy and Lizzy go back to Tommy’s place to have sex but when Lizzy wants to watch a video of themselves while they have sex, they discover that the tape is actually a tape of soccer matches and Tommy thinks he might have returned the wrong tape by mistake, not knowing that Renton had actually switched tapes so he could watch it. Elsewhere, Spud follows Gail back to her place but ends up passing out on her bed. When he wakes up in the morning, he realized he had defecated in the bed and tries to leave with the dirty sheets but as Gail’s mom tries to grab them and wash them and as he struggles with her, the sheet opens up and feces go flying all over Gail and her family. When Renton wakes up, he learns that Diane is underage and is upset that she tricked him and when he tries to break things off with her, she blackmails him into continuing to see her or else she will go to the police. Renton, Sick Boy, and Spud decide to go back to doing heroin and Tommy starts joining them, as Lizzy broke up with him over the missing tape. As they continue to do drugs, Allison starts screaming one day and they discover that Dawn has died sometime during the night while they were all high and Sick Boy is upset about it while Allison asks Renton for a hit to numb her pain. Renton and the others result to stealing to support their habits, which brings us to the events at the beginning of the movie. Renton and Spud are taken to court for shoplifting and Spud is sentenced to 6 months in prison while Renton has checked into a rehab facility for treatment to avoid prison. As Renton is with his family and friends celebrating not going to prison, Spud’s mother shows up and Renton apologizes that spud went to prison instead of him but she just walks away. Renton goes to see Mother Superior to get a hit and ends up over dosing so Mother Superior calls a cab and has him dropped off at the emergency room. After being treated for his overdose, Renton is picked up by his parents, who take him back to their and lock him in his old room, weening him off heroin cold turkey. During his withdrawal period, Renton starts hallucinating about Spud, Tommy, and Baby Dawn, who crawls along his ceiling. As he gets clean, his parents have him tested for HIV and he despite his years of sharing needles, Renton is clean. Tommy, whose life has fallen apart after Lizzy left him, has contracted HIV and when Renton goes to pay him a visit, he asks Renton for some money so he can buy a hit. Diane pays Renton a visit and as they are talking, she tells him the world is changing and he isn’t getting any younger. Renton takes her words to heart and moves to London to start a new life, getting a job as a property letting agent. He stays in contact with Diane, who tells him that Sick Boy has become a pimp (and tried to recruit her), she ran into Spud, and nobody had seen Tommy for weeks. As he reads the part in the letter about Begbie being wanted for armed robbery, he hears someone ringing his doorbell and realizes who it is. Begbie, who is on the run from the police stays at Renton’s place and has him place a bet on a horse race, which he wins and they go out to celebrate. Some time later, Sick Boy shows up, looking to make a big score and after he sells Renton’s TV, Renton places his passport in a locker and moves them into an unrented loft so they won’t get him into trouble, hoping his boss will catch them and have them arrested for vagrancy. Before that happens, they head back to their hometown to attend Tommy’s funeral and afterwards, as they are having some beers in their old hangout, Sick Boy tells them of a large shipment of heroin that they can buy for £4,000 and sell in London for £16,000. Sick Boy convinces Renton to front the money and unfortunately, he is the one that has to test the product to make sure it is good. As they head back to London, Begbie gets more and more paranoid, as if he is busted for this he will be looking at a huge prison sentence when it is added to the armed robbery charge. After making the deal, the four go out to celebrate and as Sick Boy and Begbie leave the table, Renton talks with Spud about taking the money and leaving but Spud doesn’t want to, as he is too scared of Begbie. When a man bumps into Begbie and makes him spill some of the beers he is carrying, Begbie attacks the man and brutally beats him, accidentally slicing Spud with his knife when Spud tries to intervene. Renton sees this as the last straw and as they are all sleeping, he quietly gets dressed and steals the bag from Begbie, who was holding it as he slept. Spud sees him as he leaves and Renton waits to see if he will go with him or shout out but Spud shakes his head no so Renton walks out the door. He heads to the locker and grabs his passport, leaving £4,000 in there for Spud, as he felt sorry for him. When Begbie wakes up and discovers the money is missing, he begins trashing the hotel room and the cops end up being called and arresting him. Spud and Sick Boy leave, with Spud going to the locker and getting the money, while Renton takes the rest of the money and heads off to start a new life.

Trainspotting met with high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A brutal, often times funny, other times terrifying portrayal of drug addiction in Edinburgh. Not for the faint of heart, but well worth viewing as a realistic and entertaining reminder of the horrors of drug use.” The character Sick Boy is shown to be a huge James Bond fan in the film, which is ironic because Jonny Lee Miller, who played Sick Boy, is the grandson of Bernard Lee, who played “M” in the series until 1979. The movie was a box office hit, earning £48 million ($72 million) off of a £1.5 million budget, picking up several awards and an Academy Award nom and just over 20 years later, a sequel was released that picked up the story of the characters 20 years after the original movie.

This is a somewhat dark but very good movie. The acting was great, with Ewan McGregor (Renton), Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy), Ewen Bremner (Spud), and Robert Carlyle (Begbie) all doing great jobs in their roles. The story was very realistic and did a good job showcasing the ups and downs of people using heroin, and the withdrawals as well. The scenes were pretty graphic at times, with baby Dawn’s death, and the hallucination of her crawling on the ceiling being especially disturbing, even today. A lot of the imagery and music use during some of the scenes also helped with the realistic feel to this movie, even the scenes that you knew were hallucinations or very liberal use of artistic imagery (such as Renton actually crawling into the toilet to get the suppositories). I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and some might find it downright depressing, but I do think this is one of those movies that everyone should watch at least once.

Rating: 4 out of 5

action, movie, movie review, thriller

March 2nd, 2018 Movie – The Tournament

the tournament

It’s March and if there is one thing March is known for, it is tournaments, particularly in basketball. So I think it is funny that today’s movie is about a tournament. Now this movie is another Blockbuster purchase and one that I had never even heard of before. The only reason I bought it is because the premise of it sounded somewhat like Battle Royale, which was a good movie. So I bought this and found it pretty entertaining in it’s own right so let’s get some excitement to start the day with today’s movie, The Tournament.

The plot: Every seven years, the worlds wealthiest individuals organize a secret, underground tournament in a random city; one in which they bring in special forces, athletes, hitmen, and psychopaths to participate in a 24 hour free-for-all fight to the death. The winner will receive £10 million while the wealthy elite, observing the tournament, make their own money placing bets on who will win and who will die. The organizers jam the city’s communications so that nobody can dial the authorities, while the violence and destruction is passed off as terrorist attacks, riots, or a lone madman. Seven years ago in Brazil, a man named Joshua Harlow ducks into a meat processing plant as he is being pursued by another competitor, who fires a machine gun at him. Harlow manages to get a bolt gun and uses it to kill the assassin, then kills his friend, who is another competitor and mortally wounded, and as he looks into a nearby camera, a room is shown filled with money as the organizers declare him the winner. In the present day, the tournament has been selected to take place in Middlesbrough, Unikted Kingdom and the organizers begin making preparations and tapping into the city’s surveillance system. Lai Lai Zhen, a contract killer, arrives at her hotel room and drinks a vial, which she is told to drink at 9pm, only to end up passing out from the drugged cocktail and some men enter her room and proceed to implant the tracking device in her. The next morning, Mr. Powers, this years tournament organizer, welcomes the other elite to the viewing room and begins showing all of this year’s competitors. He then tells them they have a late entry, Joshua Harlow, who is there for revenge; as his wife was murdered 4 months ago and her killer is one of the competitors. Lai Lai wakes up and sees the tracking monitor on the table, welcoming her to the tournament while outside her room, another competitor is killing the bellhop and stealing his uniform. As the elite watch from the security cameras, the competitor knocks on Lai Lai’s door and leaves the room service tray there but as she investigates it, he sneaks in through her balcony window and attempts to kill her with a garrote but Lai Lai is able to fend him off and kill him, while Powers tells the assembled viewers that her odds have now gone up to 7-1. Anton Bogart, a French acrobatic killer, heads into a diner’s restroom and proceeds to remove his tracking device, then tosses it into a pot of coffee. Keeping tabs on the pot, Anton watches as Father MacAvoy, a priest who has suffered a crisis of faith and become an alcoholic, drinks the coffee and as he leaves, Anton follows from the rooftops. Unknown to MacAvoy, two competitors, a sniper and a man in a car, are tracking the tracking device and taking aim at him. The sniper kills the man in the car and as she is taking aim at MacAvoy, Anton jumps down on the roof behind her and breaks her neck, then takes her rifle. The organizers start to suspect something is up when they track Anton’s signal but see no sign of him, only MacAvoy. MacAvoy heads into his church and kneels down in prayer when he is confronted by Lai Lai, who wonders why he isn’t defending himself. Suddenly, the church doors explodes and as Lai LAi’s attention turns to it, another competitor bursts through the window, tossing grenades at Lai Lai and MacAvoy. MacAvoy is knocked down when a church pew is knocked into him while LAi Lai begins fighting with the killer. When the killer gets the upper hand and attempts to drown Lai Lai in the holy water, MacAvoy grabs the killer’s shotgun and threatens him with it but the killer simply kicks MacAvoy away. Sensing the distraction, Lai Lai is able to free herself and renew her attack on the man, pulling the pin on a grenade on his vest and letting him blow up. Afterwards, Lai Lai questions MacAvoy only to realize that he really is an innocent civilian. Meanwhile, Harlow finally shows up on the game board as another assassin tries to kill him. As the assassin tries to shoot Harlow, he tells him he heard about his wife and says that Miles Slade had bragged about the hit and Harlow thanks him before killing him. Lai Lai contacts Powers to tell him about MacAvoy somehow getting someone’s tracker and he tells her that she knows the rules, she can either keep him with her or kill him but not to contact him again. As she hangs up the phone, they are attacked by another player, who attempts to run them over. Lai Lai shoots out the tires of the car, causing it to crash, then tells MacAvoy to follow her but when he hears the woman screaming for help, MacAvoy stops to try and help her. As he frees her from her seatbelt, the woman pulls a gun on him but Lai Lai shoots her, then chastises MacAvoy for not listening to her. Lai Lai attempts to get MacAvoy to regurgitate the tracker but he is unable to. When a police officer shows up, MacAvoy want to tell him what is going on but Lai Lai warns him that the officer is a player, just as Anton kills him. As Anton continues to shoot at them, Lai Lai and MacAvoy get into the police car and drive off, with Anton chasing after them on foot but they eventually manage to get away. Meanwhile, the organizers start watching as 9 players, including Slade, are converging on a strip club. When Slade sees another killer entering the club, he pulls out his shotgun and shoots him, initiating a fierce gun battle. As the players start killing each other, Harlow enters the club and joins in, until it is only him and Slade left. As Slade holds a girl hostage, Harlow asks him if he did kill his wife, just as another killer, posing as a stripper, attacks him. Slade manages to shoot Harlow, knocking him down, then kills the stripper before knocking Harlow unconscious. When Harlow comes too, he finds that Slade has him tied to the stripper pole and as he tries to free himself, questions Slade about his wife. Slade tells him that it was Lai Lai, not him, that killed Harlow’s wife and then cuts off Harlow’s finger, which he keeps as a trophy. Slade then offers Harlow a drink and pours some liquor into his mouth but as Slade goes to light a cigar before killing him, Harlow spits the liquor into his face, setting Slade on fire. Harlow kicks the bottle onto him, causing the fire to spread along Slade’s body, then frees himself and goes to kill him only to find Slade had escaped out of a hidden passage behind the bar. As the game’s progress, the field narrows down until there are only 6 people remaining. Lai Lai and MacAvoy, who have been driving all night, stop at a gas station and Lai Lai heads inside to get some food and drinks. As MacAvoy waits for her, he is confronted by Slade, but Lai Lai saves him and starts fighting with Slade. As the fight makes it’s way back into the station, Sade comments to Lai Lai about her killing Harlow’s wife and Lai Lai breaks his arm, then pins his other arm to the floor with Slade’s knife. As she goes to kill Slade, MacAvoy pleads with Lai Lai to spare his life and after a tense few minutes, Lai Lai lowers her weapon. Watching this occur via the security cameras, Powers orders Slade’s device to be activated and Lai Lai and MacAvoy hear a beep coming from Slade and back away just before he explodes. Suddenly, the phone rings and the gas station attendant, who has been staring in shock at what happened, answers it, then says it’s for MacAvoy. MacAvoy picks up the phone and Powers talks with him, telling him about the game and what will happen if there isn’t a winner. As Lai Lai tries to get MacAvoy to get the device out of him, one way or another, Anton, Harlow, and the last competitor are all converging on the gas station. Seeing them approaching, Lai Lai tells MacAvoy that they have to leave but as they leave the store, they see the competitor arrive on a motorcycle and aim a bazooka at them. As he goes to fire, he is run over by a double-decker bus but the rocket is fired and ends up blowing up the police car. Seeing Harlow approaching them, Lai Lai gets into the bus and tells MacAvoy to drive. Harlow, driving a tanker truck, engages in a gun battle with Lai Lai but when he runs out of shells for the shotgun, attempts to cause the bus to crash. As they keep driving, MacAvoy sees Anton on a nearby overpass and as they drive under it, Anton jumps onto the roof of the bus. He makes his way inside and begins fighting with Lai Lai, as Harlow continues to try and ram the bus off the road. When Anton knocks Lai Lai out of the bus, she manages to grab onto the rail and MacAvoy opens the doors so she can come back in. Lai Lai, on the lower level, shoots up through the ceiling at Anton, who attempts to shoot back through the floor at her. When Anton leaps out the upper window and hangs down to shoot at Lai Lai through the lower window, MacAvoy slams on the breaks, causing Harlow to slam into the back of the bus, killing Anton. The collision causes the tanker’s tires to explode and Harlow ends up wrecking, with the tanker exploding but Harlow survives. Lai Lai and MacAvoy, who had thrown up the tracker during the crash, make their way to a church outside of town but Harlow follows them and confronts them. Meanwhile, the organizers discover that there are no surveillance cameras in the church so they send someone there to see what is going on. Inside the church, Harlow asks why Lai Lai killed his wife when she was after him and she tells him that she was hired to kill his wife. Meanwhile, MacAvoy pleads with Harlow to spare Lai Lai’s life, telling him of the explosives in the trackers, but Harlow stabs Lai Lai in the stomach. As the elite all cheer at Harlow’s victory, Harlow steps out of the church to find a limo waiting for him. Harlow is taken to the viewing room and as Powers congratulates him, Harlow asks him why he had his wife killed. When Powers says that Harlow refused to play the game again and so he did it to motivate him into playing, Harlow grabs Powers and places the tracking device he removed from Lai Lai, into Powers’ mouth, which restarts the clock with only 3 seconds left and as the elite try to run from the room, Harlow and Powers both explode. Lai Lai is shown to have survived and she shows up at MacAvoy’s church, where he has had his faith restored and preaches to his congregation about recent events and smiles when he sees her.

This is a pretty good thriller of a movie. The acting was good, with Robert Carlyle (MacAvoy), and Kelly Hu (Lai Lai) doing a good job in their roles and I liked the chemistry they had while they are trying to survive. I also liked Ian Somerhalder (Slade) and Liam Cunningham (Powers) but was a little disappointed that Ving Rhames (Harlow) didn’t have a bigger part. The story was good, though I will say that it still feels like it borrowed from Battle Royale, especially the explosives in the tracker. The special effects were pretty decent but the action scenes were better than I expected, especially involving Anton, whose use of parkour made for some incredible stunt scenes, especially when he was chasing after Lai Lai and MacAvoy and the bus fight. It’s not necessarily going to blow your socks off but it is a decent job in keeping you entertained, or just killing time.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5